President Donald Trump welcomed lawmakers, advocates and members of the video game industry to the White House on Thursday for a much- anticipated meeting on gun violence that participants said was unusually calm and measured, for the most part.
With the nation still reeling from the massacre at a Parkland, Florida high school that left 17 dead last month, the president called video game makers on the carpet to address whether the simulated violence of their products have contributed to the rise of school shootings in the United States.
“The president opened up with a video presentation, just some horrendous butchery from the video games and he turns to the industry and says, ‘What do you have to say about this?'” Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a meeting participant and author of the book “Assassination Generation,” told TheWrap Thursday. “He was in listening mode and he did a good job with that.”
Grossman said that the video game reps present listened respectfully during the roughly hour-long meeting but had been firm in their position that the industry was not to blame.
“He asked each individual of the video game industry, ‘What are you going to do about this?’ and they all said, ‘We don’t have to do anything,'” said Grossman.
The meeting was closed to the media.
Video game industry participants said they were shocked at Grossman’s demeanor and outfit. One described him as wearing blue jeans and a leather vest – like a “cowboy” – looking dissheveled and “trembling.” One person described him as “one the edge of certifiable.”
But this participant overall described the meeting as respectful and measured.
Another participant, Brent Bozell, a conservative activist and founder of the Media Research Center, said that Trump had been fully engaged, despite the disagreements in the room.
“He wasn’t posturing at all. This was his meeting and clearly he wants to address the issue of gun violence with young people,” he said. “I think I speak for everyone in that room that the president was quite impressive.”
In a statement, the White House too, said things has been constructive.
“The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence,” it read. “The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence.”
The White House also sent along a video montage video game violence, which you can now watch on the official White House YouTube page.
Both Bozell and Grossman said they believed there was a casual relationship between video game violence and real violence. In a statement to TheWrap, the Entertainment Software Association disputed that point.
“We welcomed the opportunity today to meet with the President and other elected officials at the White House,” it read.
The industry participant cited multiple studies that said there is no proven connection between simulated video game violence and real-life violence, making the point that Canada and the United States experience the same video game entertainment, and that Canada has a small fraction of gun deaths as compared to the United States.
“We discussed the numerous scientific studies establishing that there is no connection between video games and violence, First Amendment protection of video games, and how our industry’s rating system effectively helps parents make informed entertainment choices. We appreciate the President’s receptive and comprehensive approach to this discussion.”
The 2011 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association struck down a 2005 California law barring the sale of violent video games to minors without parental supervision. In its ruling, the Court held that video games were a form of protected speech under the First Amendment.
Sharon Waxman contributed to this report.